RALEIGH, N.C. — A massive rainstorm drenched the East Coast from the Carolinas to Maine on Thursday, causing at least four deaths, flooding roads and washing away months of dry weather.
The worst of the rain fell in North Carolina, where Jacksonville picked up 12 inches — nearly a quarter of its typical annual rainfall — in six hours. Four people, including two children, were killed when the sport utility vehicle they were traveling in skidded off a rain-slicked highway and tumbled into a ditch filled with water, North Carolina troopers said.
The rain was part of a system moving ahead of the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, which dissipated over the Straits of Florida on Wednesday. Much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast were starting to move into a drought after the dry summer, and the fall storm provided several inches of much-needed rain.
In Walpole, N.H., Erin Bickford said the deluge was a welcome sight for her 8 acres of vegetables. She said she hoped the moisture also would recharge wells that went dry in the town.
“We had almost no rain at all. Often, we could see it raining across the river, but it didn’t come here. It was just dust. Even if it did rain, it would be a tiny bit, maybe half an inch,” she said.
North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Edwards said troopers initially reported five people were killed in the crash because two children, 3-year-old twins, did not have a pulse when emergency workers arrived on scene. However, rescuers were able to revive them and they were taken to a hospital alive. One of the twins later died, a news release from the patrol said.
Edwards said the family of five from Atlanta was traveling westbound on U.S. 64 east of Creswell around 12:20 p.m. when their Jeep Cherokee hit a patch of standing water, hydroplaned and skidded off the highway into the ditch.
Creswell is approximately 145 miles east of Raleigh.
The four killed were identified as the driver, Daniel Alvarez, 25; his wife, Natalie Owens, 26; Zacharia Alvarez, 3; and Ariela Alvarez, 1. Zacharia’s twin, Ezekiel, was taken to a hospital in Greenville, N.C.
Crews throughout the northeast worked to pull fallen leaves from storm drains. Schools in North Carolina were closed and some farther north planned to cancel classes Friday so students wouldn’t have to travel on flooded roads. Baltimore Gas and Electric says approximately 40,000 of its Maryland customers have lost power.
Josh Barnello, 12, took advantage of his day off to take a look at a pond that overflowed its banks in Carolina Beach.
“Someone was paddling a canoe down the street earlier,” said Barnello, a budding meteorologist who used a wind speed gauge he got for Christmas to record gusts of 53 mph near his house.
Forecasters expected those heavy winds to spread up the coast, possibly toppling trees and power lines made unstable by the saturated ground.
The winds also were churning up big waves that were eating away at a “living shoreline” of rocks, sand and grasses built this year on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, said Bob Gilbert from his waterfront home in Churchton, about 10 miles south of Annapolis.
“There’s not a boat in sight,” Gilbert said. “The waves are really choppy and nasty-looking.”
The rain caused several other wrecks Thursday, including a crash between two transit buses in Maryland that left 26 people hurt.
Standing waters and fallen limbs on tracks slowed several Amtrak trains, while some Northeast airports reported flight delays of up to three hours. Much of eastern Pennsylvania was under flood warnings as storms could bring as much as 6 inches of rain before leaving the area on Friday and parts of Virginia had 7 inches.
Back-to-back storms have dropped a third of the rain Wilmington, N.C., usually gets all year in just five days. The 21 inches collected since Sunday was the highest five-day total in nearly 140 years of records, topping Hurricane Floyd’s mark of 19 inches set in 1999, the National Weather Service said.
Sheila Mezroud said sandbags kept floodwaters out of her Carolina Beach home for only a short time. “I have to walk through an inch of water to get from the living room to the bathroom,” she said.
Foreman reported from Raleigh. Associated Press writers Sandy Kozel in Washington; Jim Fitzgerald, Deepti Hajela and Frank Eltman in New York; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, S.C.; Ben Nuckols in Baltimore; and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.